More than likely you or members of your family see a primary care physician at least once per year. Additionally, you probably fit in a checkup with your dentist and maybe even a dermatologist or optometrist appointment. Which is why, for women, annual OBGYN exams are very important to prioritize.
An annual wellness exam with your gynecologist is an important part of measuring and evaluating your overall health. It’s a means to track your health over time and identify any concerns with your gynecological health. Additionally, an annual OB/GYN appointment serves as a great opportunity for women to ask a specialist specific questions and educate themselves on the particulars of certain preventive care.
Primary and Preventive Care
Annual exams are a means for you to develop a trusting relationship with your doctor. An OB/GYN appointment is a very personal procedure. One that should be as comfortable as possible. Therefore, it’s important to build that trust with your OB/GYN with regular, annual exams.
In many ways, your OB/GYN acts as your primary care physician, offering care in other areas of your health beyond gynecological health like:
- Mental health – Helping to counsel women during difficult times and health/procedural decisions as well as help through pregnancy, menopause, and other health changes.
- Diet and exercise – Your OB/GYN can help you develop a healthy lifestyle, particularly as it relates to any existing conditions related to your gynecological health.
- General wellness – You should be able to bring up any questions or concerns you have about your health with your OB/GYN and they’ll be able to help recommend the appropriate specialists.
When it comes to women’s health, so many of the most common conditions can exist in the body without any noticeable signs or physical symptoms. Conditions like HPV, breast cancer, and cervical cancers can go unnoticed and untreated until it’s too late. An annual visit to your OB/GYN will keep your physician up-to-date and in the loop on any changes in your body that may indicate something more serious.
Plus, routinely going to the same doctor over the course of your life allows you to build trust, so that if, and when something does come up, you’re comfortable and ready to talk about treatments. Whether it’s getting ready for pregnancy, going through menopause, or preparing for other significant life changes, your OB/GYN can be there every step of the way.
What to Expect During Your Annual Exam
If it’s been awhile since your last OB/GYN appointment, it may be more comforting to know what to expect before you go in. Like any other physical exam, most OB/GYN wellness exams begin with basic bodily measurements like height, weight, blood pressure assessment and a urinalysis.
General questions might include any allergies, medications you may be taking, general health and lifestyle questions (diet, whether you smoke or drink alcohol, etc.), general questions about your menstrual cycles, as well as give you the opportunity to bring up any pertinent information and new medical issues or concerns.
Important Facets of an OB/GYN Exam
While your general health is an important part of your OB/GYN experience, you’ll want to get into more specific facets of your gynecological health. Common areas that your annual exam might cover can include any number of the following:
You may discuss aspects of your menstruation like the regularity and consistency of your cycles, concerns about heaviness, any bleeding in between periods, as well as any troubling or uncomfortable symptoms.
Birth Control and Sexual/Reproductive Health
When it comes to birth control, your OB/GYN can provide significant expertise. With so many different options available today, your doctor can help you decide which type and method of birth control is right for you and your body. Prescription birth control methods include:
- Vaginal ring
- Birth control implants
- Intrauterine device (IUD)
Since your prescription or method might change from year to year, annual exams are even more important for check-ins on the status of your birth control.
Additionally, visits to your OB/GYN are great opportunities to discuss any concerns about your sexual and reproductive health and wellbeing. Your physician can help educate, diagnose, and treat issues related to pain during intercourse, infertility, sexually transmitted diseases, and other areas of concern.
Like your other primary care physician, an annual OB/GYN appointment is a great chance to learn about possible vaccinations that may be important to your health. Flu shots and pneumovax may be covered, but equally important is to go over the HPV vaccine, especially in the case of younger women.
The Physical Exam
Physical exams are another important part of any medical check up, especially annual OB/GYN exams. Here’s what you can expect in an annual exam with your OB/GYN.
Clinical Breast Exam
While getting a breast exam in a clinical setting every year is important, it’s also something you should (hopefully) know how to perform on your own and should really be conducted at least once a month. If you’re unsure of how to perform a self-breast exam, your annual OB/GYN appointment is the perfect time to ask and learn.
The clinical exam is in place to ensure nothing was missed on your self-checks, mainly signs of breast cancer that include abnormalities, lumps, or tenderness.
Abdominal and Pelvic Exam
Abdominal and pelvic exams are also standard parts of the physical exam portions of your annual OB/GYN appointment to examine your reproductive organs and scan for any abnormalities. The abdominal exam consists of your doctor palpating the abdomen for any irregularities.
For the pelvic exam, a speculum is inserted into the vagina so your doctor can closely examine an internal view of the cervix and vaginal lining more effectively. A Pap smear may also be performed at this time, which consists of collecting a sampling of cells that are shed from the cervix. The test only takes about 30 seconds, and the cells will be screened for any infections and possible pre-cancer signs.
Finally, a bimanual examination may be performed once the speculum is removed. A bimanual examination consists of your doctor palpating the lower abdomen with one hand while inserting one or two fingers into the vagina with the other. From there any changes to the vagina, ovaries, uterus and cervix can be detected.
Schedule Your Annual Exam Today
The results of any of the tests and exams performed during your annual visits will help inform your doctor of any major changes to your gynecological and overall health. From there you can be sure to make the necessary lifestyle changes and, if necessary, undergo any treatment plans.
Annual appointments with your OB/GYN should be an important part of your health plan. It’s a time to ask important questions and go over any major concerns you may have about your gynecological health
So, what are you waiting for? Building a trusting relationship with your doctor and setting the foundation for a better, healthier you starts with an annual exam. Contact your Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville OB/GYN today and schedule a consultation.